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Ensuring Workplace Safety and Compliance: The Role of Pre-Placement Physical Examinations

When it comes to hiring new employees, companies must ensure that the candidates they bring on board are physically capable of performing their job duties. To do so, many organizations require applicants to undergo pre-placement physical examinations as part of the hiring process. This article explores the extent to which employers are allowed to inquire about applicants’ physical abilities and require them to meet specific physical requirements for the job. It also discusses how to navigate potential discrimination concerns while maintaining a safe and efficient work environment.

Bona Fide Occupational Requirements

Employers are allowed to inquire about an applicant’s physical abilities if the questions pertain to a bona fide occupational requirement. In other words, the inquiries must be directly related to the job’s essential duties and tasks. For example, a warehouse worker may be required to lift heavy objects regularly, making it a legitimate concern for the employer to ask about an applicant’s lifting capacity.

As long as the question is prefaced properly and pertains to the job requirements, it can be asked without violating anti-discrimination laws. However, employers must be cautious about discriminatory questions and be mindful of the protected rights under anti-discrimination legislation. These include possible areas of discrimination such as age, family status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, and age.

Demonstrating Physical Abilities

In some cases, employers may ask applicants to demonstrate their ability to perform specific tasks, such as lifting a box. This allows the employer to gauge whether the applicant can safely perform the job duties without risking injury. For example, an applicant for a warehouse position may be asked to demonstrate their ability to lift a 50lb object using proper lifting techniques.

Pre-Placement Physical Medical Exam – Fitness to Work Form

A Pre-Placement Physical Medical Exam (PPE) is a tool that employers can use to assess an applicant’s physical fitness for a specific job. By having the applicant sign a Fitness to Work Form, they give permission for their medical doctor to release the information contained within the document to the organization.

The form typically includes the following classifications:

Class A: Fit for Work – no limitations.

Class B: Fit for Work with limitations.

Class C: Unsuitable for the duties of this position.

If an applicant is classified as Class B, the form requires the physician to specify any restrictions or limitations the applicant may have, such as lifting restrictions, mobility concerns, or working conditions that might pose a health risk.

Employers have the right to inquire about an applicant’s physical abilities and require them to meet specific job-related physical requirements, as long as these requirements are bona fide occupational requirements. By utilizing pre-placement physical examinations and carefully phrasing questions to avoid discrimination, companies can ensure a safe work environment for both their employees and clients.


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Melissa has 8+ years of combined Commercial, Business and Contract Law experience as In-House Counsel in manufacturing, health, real estate development, and broadcast communication industries. She is instrumental in developing strategies to minimize legal risk and ensure regulatory compliance.

She has 6+ years of Human Resources Management experience and a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation. Her practice includes Family Law, Civil Litigation, Wills & Estates and Real Estate & Conveyancing.

For fun, she visits ancient sites and ruins and belts out popular Broadway tunes.

northam law corporation

Northam Law is a boutique law firm offering advisory services in Real Estate Law and Conveyancing, Business Law, and Human Resources. Our practice areas also include Wills & Estates and Family Law. Notarization services are also available.

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